I know a little place in Coimbra...
If I were to bring up Portuguese music, anyone who’s lived in the country for longer than five minutes will assume that I am about to talk about hefty Portuguese men in sweeping black cloaks just oozing with saudades and bawling about how much they love Coimbra and how sad they are that they and/or their loved one has to leave: Coimbra tem mais encanto na hora de despedida.... etc. etc. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with a bit of Fado from time to time, indeed as a keen lusophile myself am a fan (sometimes). However you may be pleased to hear that Fado is far from being the only music that the traditional streets of our beloved Portugal has to offer, and I’m sure that are times when you want to listen to something a bit different and, dare I say it, alternative. Well that can indeed be found on the most traditional of Portuguese cities on of the most traditional of streets: In the heart of Coimbra’s historic centre is Salão Brazil.
If you listened to last week’s Babel show on Salão Brazil, you’re already going to know exactly what the place is about. It is the heart and soul of the non profit Jazz association Jazz ao Centro Clube or JACC. Before I go on to summarise and comment upon what was discussed in this week’s report, I though I would briefly throw some history about the place in your faces. Read on...
JACC is a non profit cultural association which was established on the 30th April 2003, as a result of a cultural event which was supported by “Coimbra National Capital of Culture 2003” called Jazz ao Centro - Encontros Internacionais de Jazz de Coimbra.
And so this festival was thus held every year, and continues to be. It also works in partnership with the Portuguese publishing house which specialises in Jazz “Clean Feed” where they release a series of disks called “JACC Series” which is a compilation of live recordings of events which are organised by the Club.
In June 2005 JACC launched the ambitious project of publishing its own Jazz magazine (Check it out! jazz.pt – revista bimestral de Jazz) which far outlived the average lifespan of this type of publication! It was even recognised by by the Ministry of Culture as a thing of Superior Cultural Interest. (Oooh)
In 2007 it launched its new project Portugal Jazz – Festival Itinerante de Jazz , which is based upon the nationwide education and promotion of Jazz music through taking it to every town in Portugal. And since this ambitious goal is in the process of being achieved along with the hard work being put in by Portuguese Jazz musicians this event has been recognised by the highest Portuguese national authority: The President! Oh and it has also been awarded the status of a thing of Superior Cultural Interest... not bad!
Of course the heart of this organisation lies deep in the Baixa of Coimbra at its main venue Salão Brazil, which is what last week’s radio show largely talks about:
Our show begins with one of Babel’s many Estonian reporters Lauri’s (or as he is known in these parts: Lourenço) [I can definitely sympathise with the need to adapt an unusual name in this country. . . just call me Daveeed!] night out in Salão Brazil where he checked out some live music and caught up with some of my colleagues in order to learn what the place is about. He began by interviewing a past intern from the Czech republic: Štěpánka, who was certainly feeling the Saudades as this was her final concert at the club after having worked there as an intern for 3 months. It becomes very clear that this place has been very special to her, for her; it is a home from home; it is the place to be. With four or five concerts a week held in such a beautiful space, in such a quintessentially Portuguese setting with a alternative twist, I certainly agree with her when she says that “places like this are special”.
Indeed when one thinks of a Jazz club nowadays, the image of a smokey room full of hipsters springs to mind. Thankfully, this is not the case, as Štěpánka says, in Salão Brazil, there is no stereotype, this place is frequented by everyone, the young and the old, the Portuguese and the International, the hipsters and the chronically uncool. (like me!) - This is what makes places like this special.
Another interviewee at the club says that this place is so important because it is the place for Portuguese bands who are just starting off, because whilst there are indeed great Jazz clubs in Lisbon and Porto, you have to be recognised on an international level to even dream of playing at such venues. That is why Salão Brazil is special for him, because it gives new music a fighting chance!
escutar = to listen
dançar = to dance
conhecer novas pessoas = to meet new people
sentir = to feel, observe or experience
Back in the RUC studio we interview the president of JACC José Miguel and yet another Czech, the fabulous Martina. Zé Miguel goes on to explain a bit of the organisation’s history (see above) and modestly tells us about his own record label which records the music of budding Portuguese musicians who want to put their music out there. The label’s releases also includes collaborations with musicians from other European and Lusophone countries. Indeed this label is what JACC is all about - sharing Jazz and new music with people from all over Portugal, Europe, and the world. He mentions some names such as Maria João, João Paulo Esteves da Silva and António Pinho Vargas. I dare you to check them out on Youtube!
Zé Miguel proclaims that JACC was a dream for him and in the last year with the opening of Salão Brazil he has lived that dream. He doesn’t view Salão Brazil as a place only for concerts but a place for meeting people and talking - and to dance cuts in Martina.
Martina works at University of Coimbra’s Division of international relations (I’m sure you’ve all seen her around Casa da Lusófonia smiling the day away!). She also spends her free time helping out at JACC after having met Zé Miguel at a Portuguese music festival in the Czech Republic. Her favourite music is fusion music, i.e Jazz with a bit of ethno or rock mixed in. “I guess you could call it world music” she says.
Zé Miguel says: Sometimes it’s hart to keep this dream a reality as there is little support from the state, but he doesn’t complain. JACC always welcomes people to help- its not something he can do alone. And this is definitely something I agree with. I will be volunteering at JACC from December onwards, and ever since I decided to come and help out I have been made to feel nothing but welcome. This place really is special, as they say in the show being part of JACC feels like being in a movie. Make sure you check it out whilst you’re in Coimbra, you won’t regret it.
Obrigado por lerem, BJS!